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Hook gets chance to coach in winter league

Kenny Hook (2012 File Photo by Matthew Hicks.)
01/16/2013 9:53 AM -

By MATT FULKS
tbonesbaseball.com

It can be said that success begets success. Or at least certainly brings more opportunities to be successful. That’s certainly the case for T-Bones manager Kenny Hook.

After leading the T-Bones to one of the organization’s best-ever regular-season records in his first year as manager, the California Winter League (CWL) invited Hook to serve as an instructor, beginning today in Palm Springs.

“Ricky (VanAsselberg), the manager at Grand Prairie, is an old friend of mine and we talked last season about the CWL because he’s been an instructor in this league,” said Hook. “A month or so after the season, the head of the league called and asked if I’d be interested in being an instructor. I thought about it and decided it could be good for me as a manager and good for the T-Bones organization.”

In its fourth season, the CWL has grown into an eight-team league and become a destination for players who want to get noticed by a Major League club. According to the league website, at least 50% of the CWL’s players have received spring training offers in each of its first three seasons.

“Most of these players are a few years out of college and were maybe released by an organization or were overlooked, so they’re looking for another chance,” Hook said. “This year, Roger Clemens’ son and Ozzie Smith’s son will be two of the players. Clemens’ son, for instance, has been in Houston’s minor-league system for six or seven years. This is a place where he could make an impression and maybe get picked up by another club.

“From what I understand, every Major League team has at least one scout come and watch.”

Each California Winter League team will have two “instructors,” such as Hook, who’ll work closely with the players each day. Then, the instructors meet each night to discuss every player.

“When it’s all done, some guys will get spring training invitations, or the managers can invite them to their own team’s camp or help them find another professional club,” said Hook. “Going into this, if I can find a backup catcher and a utility infielder to invite to our camp, it’s worth it. I’m going to see so many different parts of a guy’s game that I’ll know exactly what we’re getting.”

Of the 16 instructors, five are managers from the American Association, including Hook, VanAsselberg, Stan Cliburn (Sioux City), Pete Incaviglia (Laredo) and Tim Johnson (El Paso), who managed the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998.

“The league is a great training ground for the players, obviously, but also for the managers,” Hook said. “Being around all of the instructors, but especially someone like Tim Johnson, is huge for me. How can I not get better as a manager being around someone who’s managed at the big-league level?”

The California Winter League will begin with the MLB Workout Days on Thursday and Friday, followed by a draft, and then league play beginning on Saturday. Then, there are three games each weekday and four on the weekends. The league concludes with a championship on Feb. 12.

“This is a unique situation,” said Hook, “and I’m excited and proud to be a part of it.”

While Hook is in California, we will feature regular “Kenny’s Korner” updates at tbonesbaseball.com.